Inspection- No Need to Go on “Auto”

Until this edition of Inspection I really haven’t been able to comment about the hat in hand automakers. My mind, 45 years later, is still filled with shadows of Studebaker Packard’s three year slide into total belly up as a marquee as probably one of the most innovative automakers ever in the industry. I hate to see any of them go: especially since I am the proud owner of a 07, full convertible, Jeep Ultimate.

Hey, ever since my beloved VW Thing… may it rest in rustbelt pieces… my heart has gone through a total convertible restructuring. This is the first open air car I’ve owned since I sadly sold a MG Midget in the mid-90s. {Having a wife who has been developing a void in that same organ regarding rag tops hasn’t helped. “You mean you don’t want cold wind blowing your office papers and skirt in the air? What’s… up… with that?”) Oh, what a dream Mister Magoo was to drive when I wasn’t standing on my carport, or on a some desolate/suicidally busy road shoulder cursing the heavens by saying, “British engineering.” I know. I should go wash my keyboard off with soap for typing something worse than dropping the F-bomb. (Let’s pause to sing, “F-bombs away, my friends, F-bombs away…”)

I am proud we have our own auto industry, despite the fact I’m not all that fond of Chrysler, Ford or GM… in descending order of fondness. Still; especially with all those workers, I feel like I’m letting go of a dearly departed spouse, or reading some auto-based version of a book that was a cliche’ damn near before it was published: Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Setting something free means it will rarely if ever come back. And do remember that any girlfriend who lamely tries to convince you of such is the one holding the shotgun ready to point at your clay pigeon heart. Pull!

But let them go I feel we must, and find new suitors. Their record: their abuse of our trust to really compete and look forward, isn’t all that good. If we save them now we’ll be right back here later: like that abused spousette to the spouse always willing to beat up your heart and your wallet after going on yet another Hummer binge.

Then we have a little bad history between us…

After Chrysler was bailed out we were rewarded with the K car… (oh, boy!) …and they stumbled through the years right back to where we started from, do, dah, do, dah. They even rewarded us by going foreign, only to have their new owners: Stude’s former in house export, kick them to the curb… abandoned like an unwanted puppy. Being sold for significantly less than when bought years earlier is never a good sign.

Here’s what I suggest. Approach Nissan, Honda, Toyota and some of the other imports. Bring reps from the Big Three in on it too: include labor. Instead of dumping more money down this toilet, offer the Big Three all kinds of incentives to sell their companies to the government. No: the government won’t run them: that would be really, really stupid. Can you think of a government run auto that didn’t mimic the odor of skunk spray?

At the same meeting offer the other companies the assets and car/Jeep/truck lines if they make these new U.S.-only operations as U.S. as much U.S.-source content as possible. We have been doing this already and it has been working.

Give them one hell of a sweetheart of a deal to do so; but only if they hold on to as much of the labor that the Big Three had to begin with as possible. Servicing and providing parts for the old Big Three cars mandatory.

Most of these companies have proven; year after year, they know how to build, run a business, market and look forward to the future. The Big Three have proven the opposite.

Of course I doubt any pol would ever have the foresight and the huge pair of… to do this.

Would the companies accept the deal? Maybe not all… but if you tie it into access to US markets, or not… bigger tariffs… or not… and an easy out for The Big Three, yes I believe they would. I’m sure my concept isn’t perfect, though this would be the first time one of my ideas wasn’t… chuckle… so I’m sure it would mean more than a little tweaking.

They’d better do something more than what has been suggested. Otherwise we’ll be right back here doing this again sooner rather than later. There’s no doubt the economic hill gets quite steep and I suspect it will be quite a while before we even begin to see the bottom of the hill. Just dumping money into any of this now the wrong way would be like adding oil to an engine without putting the plug back in. It’s too late to take back yet again another government giveaway to the Cadillac, welfare queens and queens in the financial industry. We still have time to make sure the engine that drives the auto industry will run well into the future….

But we need to make as damn sure as possible that oil pan gets plugged first.

-30-

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.